, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 47-57

Quality of life in women with recurrent breast cancer

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Although the psychosocial concomitants of early-stage breast cancer have been well-documented, the relationship between cancer recurrence and quality of life remains less clear. We conducted a prospective, longitudinal study in order to clarify the relationship between recurrent cancer and quality of life, and to determine predictors of quality of life following recurrence. Sixty-nine women with recurrent breast cancer completed questionnaires assessing multiple components of quality of life at three time points: prior to recurrence, immediately after the diagnosis of recurrence, and at follow-up 6 months later. Perceptions of overall quality of life, general health status, emotional, social, and physical functioning were poorer immediately following the diagnosis of recurrence than they had been prior to recurrence. These women also evidenced significant improvement in several domains of quality of life between initial recurrence and follow-up; nonetheless, most areas of quality of life were impaired compared to pre-recurrence. Self-reported physical symptoms were a strong predictor of post-recurrence ratings of overall quality of life. These data suggest that the recurrence of breast cancer is associated with significant changes in quality of life. Quality of life did not progressively deteriorate, however, attesting to the resilience of women coping with this major stressor. These data shed light on issues of potential importance to patients managing this serious illness and may have implications for health-care professionals working with this population.